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Gloucestershire and Pasadena, Ca.

1 Leave a comment on verse 1 0 It was impossible to forget the historic links between America
And this old “Atlantic Archipelago”,
When meeting in Royal Parade in Regency Cheltenham,
Just below the hills where a disconsolate George the 3rd talked to the trees,
Dreaming of the Empire and its wayward American colonies;
And when Trish took a wrong turning on the motorway,
Rita calmly noted the place names and their New England associations,
While Terry calmly deleted Trish’s Irish expletives;
Nor was it hard to forget Britain’s Imperial maritime splendour,
When reading the Victorian Jubilee plaque at the Cabot Tower,
Explaining how North America was “discovered” in 1497,
And when we looked at the replica of the tiny Matthew,
Tim and I both talked of how we couldn’t countenance a voyage
In such a ship as that all across the Atlantic Ocean,
A stupid thought after visiting the Bristol Slavery Exhibition,
And its subject matter of 20 million Africans who had no such choice
About whether to go or not, and if so, in which particular ship.
But we drove back home to Sunday afternoon Stoke Bishop,
Past all the football matches squashed on Clifton Down,
The Downs once owned by the Bristol slaving Merchant Venturers,
The Merchant Venturers! I remember seeing the steam engine!
I remember writing the number down and underlining the name,
All those years ago, when your life was full of football and train spotting,
And though I never knew what the name meant, it sounded grand,
And it looked grand, that train, just like a Harry Potter express;
But how names so easily sanitise the past!
Those voyages of barbarity were just “ventures”,
Exercises in entrepreneurial risk-taking,
Jaunty voyages of maritime capital and accumulation,
Brave trips into the unknown, don’t you know,
And not inhumane acts of depredation at all!
And Rita told us of visits to U.S. museums,
Where guides speak of “servants” rather than “slaves”,
And she reminded us that George Washington,
That friend of freedom, was a slave owner himself –
But you both spoke of truth and friendship,
And over a crowded Johnstone family meal,
You heard how Basil the Westie nearly became manager of England,
And you met Chris, a real life character from Harry Potter,
And though he enthralled you with his olde fashioned Englishnesse,
It was you, Terry and Rita, who truly inspired us,
For when Charlotte and Alice got back home from school,
After you, Terry, had spoken at Archway School,
They simultaneously exclaimed that “He was inspirational!”
And so you were, and so you were too, Rita,
For you jointly helped remove some of the mythologies of the past,
And you jointly helped us face the future with more confidence,
And for that, we send you our warmest thanks –
So from Gloucester, where the grass, alas, is no longer greener,
We salute you, over there, in Pasadena!

Excuse this indulgence – there’s a couple of references to football. It’s my thank-you to the Roberts. Rita is a Professor of African-American History and Terry is a Professor of Psychology and one of the Little Rock 9 who broke segregation in Arkansas in 1957. I was responsible for their speaking tour – look at my poem Team Universe below or find out about Terry on www.irespect.net

Source: http://footballpoets.org/poems/gloucestershire-and-pasadena-ca/